Black-throated Sparrow at Elena Gallegos

“Mary Lou saw a Scaled Quail when she arrived at the parking area,” Rebecca told the 12 Central New Mexico Audubon Thursday Birders gathered at the Cottonwood Trailhead at the Elena Gallegos Picnic Area, one of the sites in Birding Hot Spots of Central New Mexico. It disappeared into the scrub and no quails were calling as the rest of us assembled.

Despite the calm and cool morning, there was a marked absence of birds along the trail as the group headed towards the blind.

“There are several birds darting around in the cottonwood tree next to the blind,” trip leader, Donna signaled. When we focused our binoculars, we could see that they were Pine Siskins – five of them.

“There’s also a Yellow-rumped Warbler,” Lefty commented. “It’s a Myrtle,” he continued. The Myrtle sub-species is rare in the foothills, even in migration. Close by there was another Yellop-rumped Warbler, this one an Audubon’s sub-species.

“There’s also a Chipping Sparrow,” I added.

A pair of Bushtits busied themselves in the grass beneath the tree.

Western Scrub Jay

As we continued, we noticed a Western Scrub Jay, one of the most prevalent birds spotted during our walk.

We followed the trail to the Foothills Trail and then south to the Pino Trail that led us back through the Open Space.

Rebecca walked over to a beargrass yucca and peered into it. “There’s a Sandia Hairstreak,” she pointed. I hurried over. I have wanted to see this colorful, yet tiny butterfly – and official New Mexico butterfly – for several years. When I saw how well it was camouflaged in the foliage, I understood why I had missed it. Even though it paused on a frond for several seconds, it was very difficult to photograph.

Sandia Hairstreak


“Maybe instead of having a ‘bird of the day,’ we can have a ‘butterfly of the day,’ I suggested since it had been a slow day for birds.

A little further on, we spotted a bird perched on top of a juniper. Probably another Western Scrub Jay we thought until we focused on it – a Townsend’s Solitaire.

We followed the road through the picnic area and back around to where we were parked. As we approached the cars, a small flock of sparrows flushed from nearby, flew up and then settled down into the grass again. One popped up, sat on the top of a far bush and sang its hear out – a Black-throated Sparrow. It was the first time I had seen one at this location.

Black-throated Sparrow


We tallied up the species for the morning – 16, and were glad we could end the day with the Black-throated Sparrow.

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